CAMDEN COUNTY, Ga. – Election officials in Southeast Georgia say this year’s election is unlike any other due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s because a lot of people who are eligible to vote don’t want to do it in person for fear of getting infected, so they’re applying to be eligible to vote by mail.
“It’s over 2,100 applications that we have on file, and those ballots will start going out by the end of this week,” said Camden County Elections Supervisor Shannon Nettles.
Nettles said Monday that she expects the number of mail-in ballot applications to increase as people weigh their voting options based on the threat of getting infected with COVID-19, although many people who News4Jax spoke with have decided to vote in person, saying it’s a tradition and it guarantees their vote will count.
When it comes to voting in this upcoming November election, Woodbine resident John Chestnut said his mind is made up on the method by which he plans to vote.
“I plan on voting in person. I feel that if you do it in person, even with COVID, it’s not that hard to wear a mask and I know my vote will be counted," Chestnut said.
Chestnut said he came to that decision after a recent negative experience while attempting to change his voter information.
“Between the city hall over there and the courthouse, a couple of forms I did got lost in the mail,” Chestnut said.
Chestnut is not alone when it comes to trusting mail-in voting.
“I plan to vote in person. I want my vote to be properly counted," said Woodbine resident Kasey Holland.
The State Election Board just passed a rule that says mail-in votes won’t necessarily be recorded if less than 10% of the oval can’t be read by electronic scanners. Despite that new rule, some people like Kenny Fox are still deciding to vote by mail.
Fox, a Kingsland resident, said he chose to vote by mail because of the coronavirus.
Fox said he and his family were previously infected with the virus and he fears voting in person could lead to reinfection. He’s also optimistic that his mail-in vote will get to the election office in time, despite a national discussion over the possibility of mail-in ballots being lost in the mail as a form of alleged voter suppression.
“I believe that if I vote, my vote is going to count," Fox said.
Nettles said that she’s confident ballots won’t get lost for the 2,100 people who have requested an application to vote by mail and others who are expected to request vote-by-mail ballots in Camden County, which has a population of more than 54,000 people.
“We have really good relationship with our local Woodbine post office. They will come and visit us prior to 7 p.m. on election night and hand-deliver ballots to us that came in after we initially checked the mail for the day," Nettles said. "But we can only encourage people to get the ballots in early. Don’t wait until the last minute.”
She said she believes mail-in ballots that are mailed at least 10 days before the Nov. 3 election will make it to the election office in time to be accepted.
Despite optimism by the elections supervisor, voters like Chestnut still believe that voting in person is the best option to guarantee their vote counts.
“How are you going to know if your stuff got lost? You make your vote, and if you do by mail, what’s your guarantee that what you voted for actually got turned in?” Chestnut said.
To make sure your mail-in vote counts, once you cast your ballot, you can always check your supervisors of election website and enter your information, and then it will give you a status update.
Nettles said people who don’t trust mail-in voting or who are worried about being around a lot of people to vote during a pandemic have a third voting option to consider: early voting.
“It’s, hopefully, at a little bit of a slower time than Election Day might be and it’s a chance for people to early vote but do (it) in person and not have to mail out their ballot," Nettles said.
Early voting runs between Oct.12 and Oct. 30.